Spike in patients seeking head injury treatment elicits worry

Monday, March 1st, 2021 11:40 | By
Dr Hiten Gadkari of Mediheal Group of Hospitals during an interview in Nairobi. PD/BERNARD MALONZ

Do not ignore that mild headache if you have ever had a fall in a bathroom or collision in a physical activity such as football or rugby, an expert has cautioned.

The warning comes as the number of patients seeking specialised treatment for head injuries is dramatically rising.

Experts now believe that the increasing number is arising from patients who initially thought that the injuries they incurred were mild, but who later learned that the knocks could be deeper.

Dr Hiten Gadkari with experience in neurosurgery spanning 25 years told the People Daily yesterday that this becomes more complicated in countries with resource limitations where the first contact for such patients is a nurse and deficiency of specialised equipment.

“The situation is worrying and calls for people to respond quickly once they have encountered accidents that can be seen as less traumatic but that can progress to a more serious internal injury.

“Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is estimated to affect approximately 10 million people worldwide every year and one that was predicted to be the major cause of death and disability worldwide by the year 2020,” Gadkari with Mediheal Group of Hospitals said during an interview.

Road traffic accidents

Existing data at the Ministry of Health shows that in Kenya, it accounts for up to 7 per cent of all surgical admissions majority of which are due to road traffic accidents.

August last year, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) said there was an overall 6.9 per cent increase in road accident deaths, majority of the casualties being pedestrians, motorcycle riders and their passengers.

Other statistics show road accidents contribute to 44 percent of all head injuries, while falls account for 26 percent, assaults (nine), firearm incidents (eight) and unknown causes result in 13 percent of head injuries.

The neurosurgeon whose surgery work revolves around traumatic brain and spine injuries; brain and spinal cord tumors, endoscopic neurosurgery, skull base neurosurgery among others said in order to avoid mortality, optimal management of TBI at the first point of contact with the healthcare system is vital for the survival of patients.

“This entails prevention or early correction of cerebral edema due to hypoxia, hypoglycemia, hyperthermia, infection, and hypovolemia. However, owing to an increase in motor vehicles, the morbidity and mortality attributed to TBI is set to increase in low and middle-income countries where access to neurosurgical care remains very limited.

"As such, there is an urgent need to enhance the quality of care offered at the first point of contact,” he added in sentiments concurred by the country’s lead psychiatrist, Dr. Frank Njenga, the chairman, Chiromo Hospital.

Specialised care

“It is true that the number of patients with head injuries is on the rise, and requires quick and specialised care. We have two categories of such patients; the older citizens and younger ones who particularly are involved in sports,” he said through telephone.

Njenga, the former chairman of the defunct Mental Health National Taskforce said it is important for older people to be rushed to hospital for specialised attention even for small knocks because they may end up causing their lives.

“In young people, concussions in rugby and football events, medical attention needs to be treated as urgent, while in older people, bathroom falls and even a slight knock be it a door or window collision are circumstances that require the quickest response,” he added.

Gadkari singled out Nakuru and Eldoret as the cities in Kenya with rising trauma cases, while Nairobi is rampant with brain tumors.

“Kenyans need to take driving as a serious business; avoid alcohol or drug intoxication; exhaustion, meaning they should have enough rest before embarking on the job. Motorists and pedestrians should also follow traffic rules strictly,” he said.

Motorists; and commuters are also advised to wear helmet, seat belts and in case of accidents, they should seek urgent medical attention through CT scans; Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scan in case of serious injuries.

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